8 Jun 2006
Five South Koreans kidnapped in the troubled Niger Delta region of Nigeria have been released. According to information received from the Movement for The Emancipation of the Niger Delta (Mend), the Koreans were released Thursday evening Nigeria Time. The BBC later confirmed that a Daewoo company executive received the hostages. The men were reportedly in good condition. Three of the Koreans worked for Daewoo Engineering and Construction Company and the two others for South Korean gas companies.
The five Koreans were seized during a raid by oil militants on the Cawthorne Channel gas facility located about 40 kms offshore from the city of Port Harcourt. During the raid, at least four Nigerian soldiers were reportedly killed. The Mend and the Joint Revolutionary Council claimed responsibility for the abductions and initially indicated that they were to trade the release of the South Koreans with that of their detained leader Mujahid Dokubo-Asari.
However hope was raised when an e-mail attributed to the Joint Revolutionary Council claimed that “The prisoners will be released soon as requested by our patriotic leader” –a reference to the jailed Dokubo-Asari.
Meanwhile, actions were initiated on multiple fronts to try and secure the release of the captured men. The Nigerian government and Daewoo company executives made contacts with the kidnappers. Also, according to the Korean Times, the Korean government dispatched a team headed by ambassador Chung Dal-ho to Nigeria for negotiations.
The kidnapping of the Koreans came on the heels of the release of eight other foreign workers that were abducted in the same region last week.
Even though everybody is relieved that the hostages have been released, observers believe that lawlessness in the Niger Delta region will claim other victims in the future. According to an article written by Austin Ekeinde for Swissinfo, Mend warns “In the next few weeks our attacks will increase (in) frequency with the destruction of several facilities of crucial importance to the oil industry.”
The militants are fighting for local control of oil revenues (90% of Nigeria’s oil production comes from this region) or for at least a favorable revenue sharing formula.
Njei Moses Timah